Preparing for Hurricanes: 3 Essential Reads
The National Hurricane Center forecast on Aug. 29 that Hurricane Dorian could make landfall this weekend and bring large amounts of rain, strong winds and potential flooding from storm surge.
Florida has declared a state of emergency and residents are preparing for what could be a Category 4 hurricane on the state's Atlantic coast. Here are three articles from The Conversation's archive that provide context on how people can prepare for hurricanes.
Predicting the path and power
Here are the #Dorian Key Messages for August 29, 5 pm EDT. Hurricane Watches could be issued for portions of the B… https://t.co/stDJ9d1LeC— National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)1567112256.0
Hurricane Dorian has already moved past Puerto Rico and is expected to gain strength as it travels over the warm Atlantic waters off the coast of Florida. Yet forecasters say there's a great deal of uncertainty regarding this storm.
Meteorologists Mark Bourassa and Vasu Misra from Florida State University explain how hurricane forecasts are done – using a number of software-based models that generate predictions of where hurricanes will go, and how strong they'll be from starting conditions, such as wind speeds and ocean temperatures.
Aided by observational data from buoys and aircraft flown into developing storms, forecasts for the paths of hurricanes — which are tropical cyclone storm systems that originate in the Atlantic — have improved significantly over the past decade, they write. But that's not true for hurricane intensity.
"It's extremely difficult for a model to estimate the maximum wind speed of a tropical cyclone at any given future time," write Bourassa and Misra. "Small-scale features of tropical cyclones – like sharp gradients in rainfall, surface winds and wave heights within and outside of the tropical cyclones – are not as reliably captured in the forecast models."
When to stay and when to go
When sustained tropical storm winds are projected to arrive is one of the key factors in deciding when states call for mandatory evacuations.
Experts recommend heeding evacuation warnings. But how do state officials know when to call for a mandatory evacuation?
Hazard expert Susan Cutter from the University of South Carolina says that there are two measurable factors that can go into the calculation: when sustained tropical force winds are expected to arrive and clearance time, or the amount of time needed for vehicles in an area to reach points of safety.
But in the end, the practice of calling for an evacuation is as much science as it is a skill based on experience — and luck.
"It is hard to predict the path of hurricanes, and even more so the behavior of people in response to them. There is a lot of uncertainty in the projections of both, which is why you often hear emergency managers say better to be safe than sorry," she writes.
The role of social networks
Visualizing the exodus of Miami-area residents in the days prior to Hurricane Irma's landfall. Each dot represents an aggregate group of users within 0.5 latitude/longitude degrees, colored by evacuees (in blue) and non-evacuees (in red).
Danae Metaxa / Paige Maas / CC BY-SA
Social sciences researcher Daniel Aldrich wanted to get more insight into when people choose to evacuate and when they don't.
Analyzing social media following disasters, Aldrich found that people with far-reaching social networks — that is, connections beyond their immediate families and close friends — were more likely to evacuate in the days leading up to a hurricane.
By contrast, his research found that social networks more narrowly focused on family and friends were less likely to evacuate before a hurricane.
"This is a critical insight," Aldrich writes. "People whose immediate, close networks are strong may feel supported and better-prepared to weather the storm."
Understanding how people use their social networks is important because choosing to stay can create more risk of harm and damage when storms do finally come.
Editor's note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation's archives.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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